22 Oct 14. One of the nicer animal displays in the country is the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone. This is an educational center and they have a lot to share with you concerning both wolves and grizzlies. They are currently expanding their facilities and plan by 2020 to be fully developed with several new displays. I'll write more about this place in the coming days, but for today will concentrate on just the wolves. They currently have three different displays of them with two adjoining each other and one removed. The photo for today was taken of the three wolves in the isolated display which also houses an info center and glass viewing area. This shot was taken from outside and through a tall cyclone fence. Prior to visiting the center we spent some time talking with individuals in both the downtown visitor's center and with a retired park employee in a local historical museum. In both locations the topic of elk / wolf interaction came up and it was shocking to hear what the local population was saying vs what the parks department was putting out. While the parks dept is 100% the wolves have saved the park, the locals tell a different story. So does a series of studies done by the University of Montana, Bozeman Campus. One of the things we noticed this trip was the scarcity of elk. The U of M has been taking annual surveys of the herbivores via aerial counting since the reintroduction of the wolves. Outside the park the elk count is well over 30K. The official U of M count of elk in the park in 2007 was just over 7K; the in-park count in 2013 was just over 900. I was given links to download the reports and I did; they were quite an interesting read. I also read a newspaper report about the park service telling the University to get in line, report their story, or they would no longer be allowed to fly over and make the counts. When initially released in 1995, it is my understanding that the wolf population was hoped to stabilize at c100 animals. It is now at roughly 500 and they are decimating the elk and moose. This is not to say that the wolves have done only harm; such is not the case. They have greatly helped to re-balance the animals in the park; but at the moment there are far too many of them!! Outside the park they are being hunted and their numbers kept in check. Over the weekend at the retreat at Mt Baker I was discussing this with another photographer when I noticed yet another photographer sitting next to us shaking his head back and forth. I asked him his opinion and he told me he was a recently retired park ranger from Yellowstone and that the only reason we are seeing the current decline in the elk (remember we are talking about the 2007 -2013 time frame) is that after the five big fires in 1988 the surviving large bulls left the park and were shot by hunters. Their loss in 1988 is the reason for the drop in elk numbers over the past 6 years. Always good to know we are employing America's brightest and best in the National Park Service! The wolves in today's image have been in captivity since they were pups. I couldn't quite see exactly what the squabble centered around, but I think it was a chunk of bone with perhaps a few scraps of meat still remaining. It was a short squabble, no one apparently hurt, and it was fun to watch. Before it began, and shortly after it was over, these two guys and the gal were performing a lengthy cantata in three voices for us that was most enjoyable. IF you get to Yellowstone, do give serious consideration to visiting the center. Nikon 300s, 18 - 200; Aperture Priority; ISO 200; 1/400 sec @ f /5.6.